Wednesday, September 10, 2014

God or Me: Who Comes First?

Victoria Osteen, wife of mega-church televangelist Joel Osteen made something of a rukus when she suggested that what God most wants is for people to do for themselves - as she put it:

"When we obey God, we're not doing it for God...we're doing it for ourself. Because God takes pleasure when we're happy. Do good 'cause God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God, really. You're doing it for yourself because that's what makes God happy."

So would Jews agree with Victoria on this or not?  Though her wording contains the potential for some theological confusion I think that we indeed would.  It should be rather obvious that given our conception of Divinity as infinite there is pretty much nothing that we can do for the Almighty as He already "has it all."  Infinite plus one is still infinite.  As such, we're forced to conclude that all that God does in this world is solely for us.  If so, why does He want us to "obey" Him?  Because the best thing that He can give us is Himself (or rather access to or closeness to Him) - that's the source of the happiness He wants for us.  The way to get it is to "obey" Him - in our case by keeping the 613 commandments. 

But if this all seems a bit mercenary it might be because it's not really how we're supposed to approach it.  The Mishna tells us that we should "be like servants who serve the master not for the purpose of receiving a reward."  Seems reasonable.  It would be unimpressive and slimy for someone to listen to and attempt to please his father for the purpose of securing the family inheritance.  One would hope the son would do it due his love, respect and gratitude for his dad.  In a healthy and functional relationship that's how it would work and in all likelihood the thing that would most please the father would be for his son to be happy.  Having lived longer and possessing a broader perspective on life, the father will instruct the son in the most efficacious way to live a good and satisfying life.  The son will not always get why these suggestions are necessary but if he trusts and loves his father he will do them anyway and through his obedience to the will of his father he will nonetheless be doing the greatest good for himself.

Good job Mrs. Osteen.

Check out the whole thing here.     

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